A screen reader converts text to audio or braille. Support for screen readers is critical for digital accessibility, and screen readers play a crucial role in accessibility testing, even for WordPress accessibility plugins.
Why Are Screen Readers Necessary for Accessibility?
First, you must understand that not all screen readers operate in the same way, and not all screen reader users have significant visual disabilities.
Apple VoiceOver, JAWS, and NVDA are the most popular screen readers, but dozens of other options exist. These applications have varying features and capabilities, but they are all intended to be assistive technologies. Assistive technologies improve accessibility for people with disabilities, and the majority of screen reader users indeed have vision-related conditions. According to a 2019 survey conducted by WebAIM, 76 percent of screen reader users with disabilities were blind, while 18.5 percent had low vision or other visual impairments.
However, some screen reader users have neurocognitive conditions or other disabilities that affect their browsing behavior — and approximately 12.4 percent of respondents said they use screen readers but not for any specific disability.
Screen reader use has grown in recent years: products such as Apple's VoiceOver can be helpful when accessing mobile devices in certain situations (for instance, when operating a vehicle). In other words, if your content cannot be accessed using a screen reader, you have a problem.
Screen readers can reveal serious accessibility flaws.
Fortunately, the WCAG provides a framework for creating content compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies and browsing behaviors.
When using a screen reader, experienced testers can identify WCAG conformance issues such as:
● Image alternative text is missing (or alt text)
● Keyboard traps and other stumbling blocks to navigation
● Incorrect, misleading, or misapplied heading tags
● WAI-ARIA implementation is invalid.
● Semantic HTML is invalid.
While automated accessibility testing may detect some of these issues, a manual screen reader test provides a more thorough assessment of a page's accessibility. Remember to choose a WordPress accessibility plugin that helps with these.
Even if those issues do not violate WCAG checkpoints, web admins must address them to provide the best possible experience to all users. In addition, experienced screen reader users can offer remediation advice and explain how the barriers affect users.